Hafiz Saeed tit-for-tat: Asylum for Baloch leader?

NEW DELHI: On a day that a Pakistani court ordered that UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed be freed, far away Switzerland rejected the asylum application of another Pakistani, who along with his Baloch community, is a victim of human rights abuses by his country’s government and army.

The bitter coincidence didn’t go unnoticed by the Pakistani in Switzerland, Brahumdagh Bugti, who is the leader of the banned Baloch Republican Party (BRP).

Bugti has also applied to India for asylum. In January, TOI reported that the Indian government was delaying acting on that application as it wanted to wait and see how bilateral relations shape up under the then new Pakistan army chief.

It’s now November. Relations with Pakistan, which is unwilling to act on terror, have only become worse. And Saeed being freed by a Pakistani court yesterday, has added insult to grievous injury.

Will India now take Bugti’s asylum application more seriously?

After the Swiss rejected his asylum application yesterday, Bugti tweeted saying that while he’s still “the most wanted person in Pakistan”, terrorists like Saeed are not just being protected “by the Pakistan army” they are being helped in their activities.

Bugti has a point.

Saeed is designated a ‘global terrorist’ by the United Nations. The US has a $10 million bounty on him. And he is the mastermind of the horrific 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed 166 people and left more than 300 wounded. In fact, the Lahore court order yesterday to free Saeed comes just four days before the ninth anniversary of the bloody Mumbai attack.

By comparison, Bugti’s CV is a yawn. He’s leader of the BRP, which wants Balochistan’s freedom from Pakistan. In 1948, Balochistan was forced to accede to Pakistan. The Pakistani government calls Bugti and other Baloch leaders terrorists, even as its own army and intelligence wing have been accused of large scale human rights violations, murder and rape of the Baloch people.

“In Balochistan and Sindh, ethnic and religious minorities endure severe persecution by state forces and terrorists. These communities are repeatedly targeted by the controversial and often misapplied Blasphemy and Anti-Terrorism Laws…,” said a report in April by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, an international pro-democracy organization

Still, it appears Pakistan – and, analysts say, China, too- appear to have convinced the Swiss authorities of Bugti’s alleged link to terrorists.

A source in the Swiss government told Pakistan’s Geo TV that Bugti’s asylum application was turned down because of his links with “incidents of terrorism, violence and militant activities”.

Bugti denies as “fake” the terror link allegations.

Geo TV said Bugti has the right to appeal. He has been in Switzerland since 2010 when he applied for asylum. He applied to India for asylum in September 2016.

“Our children are dying. Considering the latest turn of events, the Indian government should grant asylum to us,” he said in an interview to TOI’s sister publication Navbharat Times, in September last year

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